History was created yesterday when 32 Port-of-Spain residents became the first persons to appear in court charged with being gang members under the recently-passed Anti-Gang Act. Two groups, who live on Nelson, George and Picton Streets, Port-of-Spain, pleaded not guilty when they appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayres-Caesar in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate Court. It was alleged that the residents, who ranged in ages from 16 to 66 years old, were part of the "Nelson Street Gang" and the "Picton Street Gang".
They were charged under Section 5 (1) (a) of the act which makes it an offence to be part of a gang in T&T, punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. The Anti-Gang Act was passed in Parliament on May 3, this year. According to the Bail (Amendment) Act, persons charged with gang-related activities are not allowed bail for 120 days after being charged. One group included Gerrad Samuel, Derek Miller, Stanley Guerra, Jabari Martinez, Atiba Gawking, Kareem Myers, Jules Eligda, Anthony Armstrong, Akiel Ash, Newton Pollard, Simba Cobus, Reynold Cobham, Christopher Richardson and Akiel Joseph, all of Nelson and George Streets, Port-of-Spain.
Denniel Jardin, Mandelo Mason, Augustus Quamina, Ameen Debarri, John Debarri, Clinton Debarri, Deon Debarri, Nigel Debarri, Michael Moses and a woman Abida Debarri, all of Picton Street, Port-of-Spain, were charged separately. They were arrested by officers of the Besson Street CID during exercises on Tuesday and Wednesday. Attorney Ian Brooks, who represented one of the accused, demanded that prosecution disclose all evidence against his client and claimed the police had no evidence his client was involved in gang activity.
Brooks said: "I will like any interviews, affidavits, video footage or telephone records that show my client is a gang member." Brooks also asked Ayres-Caesar for the matter to be expedited as his client was being deprived of his freedom and ability to earn a living.Police prosecutor Richard Taylor assured Brooks that disclosure of the evidence against the men would be available as soon as possible. The group also was represented by attorneys Criston J Williams, Naveen Maraj and Nicole Basraj. The matter was adjourned to September 5 for those of Nelson and George Street and September 7 for the Picton Street residents.
Anti-Gang Act 2011
Section 5. (1) It is hereby declared that gangs are unlawful and any person
(a) who is a member of a gang, or,
(b) who, in order to gain an unlawful benefit, professes to be a gang member when in fact he is not, whether by telling anyone that he is a gang member or otherwise suggesting to anyone that he is a gang member, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for ten years and on any subsequent conviction on indictment to imprisonment for 20 years.